Written by Kent Spellman
“Turn This Town Around” is a unique and groundbreaking project to select two West Virginia communities to receive training, coaching, and technical assistance to help them achieve success in revitalizing their communities.
“Turn This Town Around” is a feature of West Virginia Focus, in partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Community Development Hub.
You are encouraged to vote right now for the two towns from a selection of eight contestants: in the north—Grafton, Hundred, Petersburg, and Rowlesburg; and in the south—Alderson, Hillsboro, Matewan, Pineville.
Lots of folks are asking how the eight “Turn This Town Around” contestants were selected. Most commonly, they ask because they want their town to have a shot at this opportunity.
We think that’s great. We wish we could provide that opportunity to every West Virginia community that steps up.
That being said, by my count there are 149 incorporated municipalities and 2,941 unincorporated communities in the state. In this first round of Turn This Town Around, we have the capacity to devote our resources to two communities.
So how were the eight contestants selected? There were several considerations. We knew we wanted to focus on one northern and one southern community. We thought selecting the two out of a field eight would narrow the focus and increase the competition. So we selected four northern and four southern communities.
Some of the thinking that went into the selection included:
- Where could we really make a visible difference in the course of a year?
- Where we did not already have a strong presence or relationships?
- We wanted towns that represented some geographic diversity.
- Which towns had attracted our attention as communities with potential that hadn’t been realized?
Yes, the selection of the eight was fairly arbitrary.
But here’s the point: Turn This Town Around is an experiment—a very exciting one that we believe has huge potential—but an experiment nonetheless. This is its pilot year. This will be a great learning experience for all of us, one that we hope will help us improve and expand the process in coming years.
And unlike some community development initiatives, Turn This Town Around will be very well documented. Tools, tips and techniques will be openly shared. The lessons learned will be made available to any West Virginia community that is interested.
If you want to revitalize your community, but weren’t selected for Turn This Town Around, pay attention, because you can do this at home! Learn from Turn This Town Around and apply those lessons to your town!
While the Hub and the many service providers in the WV Community Development Network will be providing whatever assistance we can to the Turn This Town Around communities, it is a central principle of community improvement that the community must determine and drive the process. Mobilize your community and get to work – don’t wait for us!
We’re exploring ideas about how we might open the process up next year to give your community an opportunity to join the Turn This Town Around campaign. Stay tuned!